Whenever a property is bought and developed, important documents must be filled out and filed with the city. These documents provide an interesting and useful history of properties and their owners. You may need to put in a little work, but these records are usually publicly accessible. Whether you need to track down an owner for tax reasons or are simply interested in the history of your house, you should be able to find the necessary information.
Ask your landlord. If the property is new, your landlord might be the original owner, and if not, he may remember who was.
Check online to see whether local archives have put property information online. Many municipalities have been digitising their records. See if they have listed property records, and search for the property. Find out when the property was first registered and who owned it.
Visit your local municipal archive. Ask one of the employees which archival documents would best help you find out who owned a property. Usually these are land registries and property rolls, but different cities may have different resources.
Check the land registry and old property rolls. You will often need to find out what ward or section the property was originally located in, and scan through records until you find the year that property was first registered. This will usually display the original owner.
Use a free online property resource such as the one available at NYC Finance (http://webapps.nyc.gov:8084/CICS/fin1/find001I) many cities have similar free resources.
Pay for a membership to a property search website. If you're unable to find records at local archives or free online resources, consider paying the fee to join.
In many archives, documents such as property rolls will be stored on microfilm. These can be difficult to use, and harder to read. Ask one of the archivists to help you if you encounter difficulties.